DOI: 10.1111/ene.16183 ISSN: 1351-5101

Cerebrovascular and cardiovascular autonomic regulation in sickle cell patients with white matter lesions

Christophe Ferreira De Matos, Pierre Cougoul, Oana Maria Zaharie, Marc Kermorgant, Anne Pavy‐Le Traon, Celine Gales, Jean‐Michel Senard, Mathilde Strumia, Fabrice Bonneville, Nathalie Nasr
  • Neurology (clinical)
  • Neurology


Background and purpose

White matter lesions (WMLs) are frequent in sickle cell disease (SCD), with a prevalence described to be as high as 53% by age 30. Cerebrovascular regulation and cardiovascular autonomic regulation, more specifically the sympatho‐vagal balance, can be altered in SCD. In this study the association between WMLs, cerebrovascular regulation and sympatho‐vagal balance was assessed in SCD patients.

Methods and results

Sickle cell disease patients with no history of stroke were prospectively evaluated for cerebrovascular reactivity using the breath‐holding test (BHT), the sympatho‐vagal balance (ratio low frequency/high frequency [HF]) using heart rate variability parameters and cerebral autoregulation in the time domain using correlation index Mx, and arterial cerebral compliance based on continuous assessment of cerebral blood flow velocities using transcranial Doppler ultrasound and arterial blood pressure with photo‐plethysmography. WMLs were assessed with magnetic resonance imaging using Fazekas score grading and the presence of lacunes. Forty‐one patients (F/M 25/16) were included. Median age was 37.5 years (19–65). Twenty‐nine (70.7%) patients had SS genotype. Eleven patients had WMLs (26.8%). Patients with WMLs were significantly older (p < 0.001), had a lower HF (p < 0.005) and an impaired cerebral arterial compliance (p < 0.014). The receiver operating curve for the regression model including age and HF showed a higher area under the curve compared to age alone (0.946 vs. 0.876). BHT and Mx did not significantly differ between the two groups.


Lower parasympathetic activity and impaired cerebral arterial compliance were associated with WMLs in adults with SCD. This could potentially yield to a better understanding of pathophysiological parameters leading to premature cerebrovascular ageing in SCD.

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